With battery competence in high demand, FREYR Battery brings learning focus to the factory floor
The bells have already rung, loud and clear, telling the world that battery supply needs to keep up to meet the global exponential demand. Battery manufacturers are called to arms, challenged not only to scale but do so sustainably, and much faster. To succeed in this mission, FREYR is aiming to disrupt the typical talent development model and finding new ways to build enough competence to propel Norway’s next industrial adventure.
“Producing battery cells is a fast-moving production process with a high degree of digitalization and automation. So, what does that mean for the factory workers in Norway’s next green industry? We need people who can monitor and analyze data, who can find defects and troubleshoot problems. All of this creates a need for high competence,” explains Lars Kvadsheim, Vice President HR & Sustainability in FREYR Operations.
“This is really a mission to create the next generation factory personnel,” adds Kvadsheim, who is tasked to lead FREYR’s proactive approach to recruit and develop the experts who will produce battery cells at the planned Giga Arctic plant in Mo i Rana, Norway.
“We don’t need a bunch of siloed teams, each with its own unique and specific competence. Rather we need multi-disciplinary teams who can be more autonomous – make their own decisions, implement changes, have fewer dependencies, and who together can run the most automated and advanced factory in the world.”
Norway sets sights on building greater battery competence
It’s certainly a tall order. Today, this type of competence is in high demand and short supply, a challenge that the Federation of Norwegian Industries (Norsk Industri) and the Norwegian Labor Organization (LO) have decided to tackle together. In 2021, they established a group called BattKOMP, short for battery competence, with the mission to map and analyze competence needs as the Norwegian battery industry scales. FREYR joined this effort and Kvadsheim serves as a BattKOMP Board Member.
“BattKOMP understands that we need more competence in batteries and that we need to do something about it. The first step was to figure out what we need. The second step was to evaluate the competence we already have. And the third step is about deciding how we are going to grow this competence in Norway and across the Nordics,” says Kvadsheim.
Collaboration between FREYR and Norway’s education sector
FREYR is taking action on multiple fronts. The company initiated a collaboration with Norway’s Vocational College in Viken (Fagskolen i Viken), which has resulted in the new battery field of study set to launch in January 2023. FREYR is also working with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and UiT - The Arctic University of Norway, two universities that educate many of the country’s engineers. Together, FREYR and these academic institutions are exploring ways to support education while on-the-job and throughout one’s career.
“We need to be more flexible in how we think about developing talent,” says Kvadsheim.
“How can we take people from vocational colleges and transition them into a university setting, all while on the job for FREYR? This means finding ways to combine work with education and continual growth and development throughout a person’s career. This is what we are pursuing through our work with BattKOMP and the education sector.”
A flexible approach to competence building
The Norwegian battery industry should not wait around for the right competence to be ready. And there’s no simple answer to solving it, asserts Kvadsheim. FREYR will benefit from building a strong talent pool in the Northern Norway region, and to do so, the company plans to take a multi-pronged approach – from apprenticeships and internships, to reskilling and upskilling, as well as a combination of work and continual education.
“Building a thriving battery industry is a true collaboration between FREYR, Norwegian industry, LO and educational institutions. The ability to collaborate and work alongside leading educational institutions, as well as experts and leaders, is invaluable to us and essential to building the competence we need. We cannot do this alone.”
The company’s long-term ambitions mean that an employee could enter FREYR with a vocational degree and before they retire, have earned a master’s degree or even Ph.D. “This is not an HR pipe dream,” emphasizes Kvadsheim, but rather it’s at the core of the company's ambitions.
“Our vision is that even our shifts at Giga Arctic may be designed with designated hours to spend on projects, deep dives, and your own development.”
The teams on the floor of Giga Arctic will be the heart of FREYR’s operation. They will be highly skilled and competent, representing multiple disciplines, experience levels and educational backgrounds, who come together each day to learn from each other and innovate together.
“These are the next generation factory workers,” says Kvadsheim, “constantly evolving people who will have what it takes to deliver the speed, scale, and sustainability that the Norwegian battery industry urgently needs.”
Fagskolen i Viken has, together with four other Vocational Colleges, established Norway’s first-ever battery vocational program. FREYR initiated the idea together with Fagskolen i Viken only a year ago. The first 60 students will begin the two-year, part-time course of study in January 2023. This program is a direct result of the BattKOMP project work to build greater battery competence in Norway.
FREYR is collaborating with NTNU and UiT on several fronts. Together, they are exploring initiatives to encourage on-the-job learning, giving employees the opportunity to earn advanced degrees while working at FREYR. In addition, UiT and NTNU are combining their expert communities to pursue battery innovation and research. UiT and Fagskolen i Viken are working together to build a path from Battery Vocational College to University.
FREYR’s battery education partnerships: Unikt batteri-partnerskap skal gi kompetanseløft (nord.no)